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Old January 30th, 2006, 21:51   #1
TDI_Dog
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Default What does wheel bearings going bad sound like?

My '02 Golf GLS TDI with 137,000+ miles has a strange sound coming from the front end somewhere. Sounds like the tires rubbing on the inner fenderwell - but this I confirmed is not the case. Its a loud deep hum - but here is the strange part - turn right ever so slightly, or completly - and the sound goes away completely. But once steering straight or turning left - the the humm is consistent. Hit a bump and I want to say the sound disappears for only a brief second.


What I have done - jacked up the car and removed both front tires - checked for anything rubbing - nothing found. That is about the limit of my mechanical genus.

So - I come to where the TDI genus' live. Any ideas? Someone mentioned maybe wheel bearings going bad?
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Old January 30th, 2006, 22:49   #2
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Usually when a wheel bearing begins to fail you will hear the noise you describe and when you transfer the weight of the vehicle onto the failing bearing the noise will become louder.

On my car I have the same noise right now. When I turn left I get a louder noise, and when I turn right I still get a noise but it is a slightly lower frequency which is still strange to me. I thought I had it pegged to a right front wheel bearing. This weekend I jacked up the car and checked for play in the right front wheel bearing - perfect. Checked the left one and found the culprit. Just seemed strange to me to hear the two different frequencies coming from the same bearing. I guess I need to see the internals to see what kind of bearings these are. Perhaps there are two different types of balls/rollers in each bearing.

Jack up the car and grab the front tire at 3 and 9 and try to wiggle the wheel while feeling for any mechanical looseness (you will also be moving the steering wheel a little bit when you do this so don't mistake that motion for play in the bearing). Then grab the tire at 12 and 6 and do the same thing. This method helps diagnose wheel bearings, ball joints, etc...

www.tdiparts.com has replacement front wheel bearings with all of the nuts you need to replace during the procedure for $45.00.

Best of luck!
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Old January 31st, 2006, 07:20   #3
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Your symptoms are not quite right, but as long as you have it jacked up, check your CV boots - a hole/tear in one of them can result in noises (but normally a clunk not a hum) that goes away when you turn. This is good practice anyway when you jack the car up.
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Old January 31st, 2006, 07:29   #4
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Could be the commom issue of the thrust washers on the spyder gears in the diff rubbing. Starts as a hum then developes into a growl. Rebuilds usually don't help. BTDT. Don't worry about it if it's the diff. Changing the fluid can help a bit.
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Old January 31st, 2006, 15:20   #5
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I had a '97 Pontiac GrandAm that would do the same thing you described. The growling would start at about 34-40 Mph, I cant remember if it would quit at anthing above 65 Mph though (I think it would). I brought the car to a tire shop for an alignment because I thought the tires were starting to cup or feather (it sounded just like a motorcycle tire after the start to cup). They thought it might be a wheel bearing so they were going to test the free-play in the bearing when they did the alignment. They said it was O.K. Sound was still there. Took it to another garage (one that I trust - but this garage doesn't have the tools for alignments so that's why I didn't go there first) They took the car for a short ride and he said that he could tell a wheel bearing was going out because of the noise it was or wasn't making when turning right and left. A couple of hours later and ~$160 my car sounded like new again.

Have a shop that you trust look at the wheel bearings if you're not comfortable. The ones in my GrandAm felt like they were fine, but they weren't


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Old January 31st, 2006, 17:46   #6
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Just changed out the front left bearing on my a4 with the same symptoms, the movement in the wheel was so small you couldn’t see the problem until you got into the bearing. Tom
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Old January 31st, 2006, 18:37   #7
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Right front wheel bearing, I bet. I had the same experience but with the left bearing. Sounded for all the world like tire tread separation. Took the snows off and sound didn't go away. Replaced front wheel bearings (decided to do both) and it was gone. BTW, moisture is usually the culprit, not wear, so replacing both isn't really necessary. Mine went at 78K.
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Old January 31st, 2006, 21:45   #8
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Did any of you take apart the wheel bearings you replaced? How are they constructed? It looked like each wheel bearing has two different sides, balls on one side and ??? on the other, maybe rollers? I know for sure my left wheel bearing is bad because I have a considerable amount of looseness but I'd still like to understand why I'm hearing two different frequencies depending on which way I load the bearing. It sounds like one side may have 12? balls, maybe the other side has 20 rollers? Something like that. I'm an NVH guy so I'll need to figure that one out.
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Old January 31st, 2006, 22:43   #9
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Sounds like the concensus is I need new wheel bearings. How hard are they to switch out? Do I need any special tools?
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Old January 31st, 2006, 22:55   #10
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I believe all you need is a press to get them out/new ones in. The hub would have to be removed from the car of course. Also, FYI, me rear bearing was just replaced due to the same noises you described. Its kinda strange though. I have had wheel bearings go and they never quite sounded like that before ( usually more high pitched ) Kinda sounded like driving on crappy roads. It was a good thing I went in when I did though. When the old one was removed, it kinda exploded. Balls everywhere ! And some of them were broke in half ( not worn that way .. )
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Old February 1st, 2006, 08:36   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by weasel
I believe all you need is a press to get them out/new ones in. The hub would have to be removed from the car of course. ...
Not necessarily. Harbor Freight has a kit you can use. It, in conjunction with a lot of elbow grease and some hints elsewhere on this site for removing a wheel bearing will get you through it.

There's an illustrated thread that's lots of help, but I'm not going to search that out - I'm too lazy.
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Old February 1st, 2006, 15:12   #12
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I would also suggest wheel bearings, but check your tires. I was so damm sure my front wheel bearings were bad. Ya know, speed related hum, changes or goes away on turns. Bought bearings, borrowed Oldpoopie's hubtamer. Also needed brakes and alignment and tires. Got busy over the holidays, took it to a shop for everything. They put on new tires and the hum went away. Even the alignment was better. They put everything else back in my car. My Bridgestone Potenzas RE950's were humming like a bad bearing. At your stated 137,000, it could be a worn out set of second or third tires.
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Old February 1st, 2006, 15:24   #13
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Thanks for the recommendation Porterman - tires are new though. Though they are the 3rd set I've had.
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Old February 1st, 2006, 20:13   #14
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Here is one of the most useful threads I have ever found on vortex.

Wheel bearing Replacement Procedure: http://forums.vwvortex.com/zerothread?id=1722551

I spent about 4 hours at the lathe making a set of tools for this. I'm planning on trying them out this weekend so I'll let you guys know how it goes.
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Old February 7th, 2006, 06:51   #15
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Did the wheel bearing replacement on the front left side this weekend. The job went as smooth as it could possibly go. Had the ultimate work facility as well - new hoist, heat, big screen tv, cruisin usa arcade game. Look one way and see a '48 Ford, look the other and see a '70? GTO 455 4spd convertible. Ahhh, heaven. The tools I made from the vortex thread worked flawlessly. The only "tricky" part was getting the inner race off of the hub. I could not get a good grip on the backside of the inner race to use a 3 jaw puller to remove the race so I ended up cutting into the race as far as I could with a dremel/cut-off wheel. Then I used an air-chisel placed into the cut I made with the dremel and cracked the inner race with a few blows from the air chisel. Then the inner race slid right off while vibrating it with the air chisel at the same time.

The new wheel bearing eliminated all of the noises coming from my drivetrain. I had two different frequencies (depending on which way I turned), a higher frequency whirring or whirling noise (probably the bearing cage), and one other noise that sounded like a grommet in the firewall was being opened and closed. All due to the wheel bearing.

Nice to have a smooth, quiet car again.

BTW - the bearing failure was due to moisture contamination of the outermost bearing set. (there are two sets of ball bearings in each wheel bearing)
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